Ted Cruz on Friday claimed that Marco Rubio holds a weaker position on defunding Planned Parenthood than he does, but pro-life leaders quickly contradicted Cruz’s claim.
At the Faith and Family Presidential Forum yesterday, Cruz, speaking after Rubio had concluded, claimed that Rubio opposed Cruz’s call “to use the power of Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.”
The latter vote was particularly significant because it is the only bill that the Republicans have successfully put on President Obama’s desk to defund Planned Parenthood. All other efforts have been filibustered in the Senate.
Carol Tobias of National Right to Life quickly rebutted Cruz’s claim as “inaccurate and misleading.” “Marco Rubio voted to defund Planned Parenthood before Ted Cruz ever got to the U.S. Senate,” explained Tobias. “Since Ted Cruz joined the U.S. Senate, both he and Sen. Rubio have voted the same on every roll call that National Right to Life regards as pertinent to defunding Planned Parenthood.”
The Cruz campaign suggests his criticism is based off his call to shut down the government rather than vote for a budget that does not revoke Planned Parenthood funding. But Cruz did not explain why that tactic is necessary or advisable if it would fail to reach 60 Senate votes, while Republicans were able to put Planned Parenthood-defunding bill on President Obama’s desk while only requiring a simple majority by using a legislative process known as reconciliation.
At the September 16th Republican debate, Cruz called for a defunding or shutdown during a segment where Rubio did not jump into the discussion and was not asked.
But Cruz likewise refrained from jumping in, either in the debates or afterwards, twice, in the August and then the New Hampshire debate, when Rubio stood his ground after being challenged on the principle that unborn children possess an inherent right to life even if they were conceived in rape.
During the latest attack, both Jeb Bush and Chris Christie criticized Rubio as being too pro-life for the Republican nomination, with Christie going so far as to say killing a child because his father is a rapist is an act of “self-defense” akin to shooting an armed burglar.
The Cruz campaign did not issue a statement in either of those disputes. In contrast, Cruz issued a statement the day after the same New Hampshire debate on the issue of requiring women to register for selective service. Likewise, during the September debate when Rubio and Christie were asked about climate change, Cruz tried to jump in and can be heard on the video saying “Jake, I’ll happily tell you that I’m a skeptic.”
Rubio’s pro-life advocacy during the New Hampshire debate may well be the motivation for Cruz to try to paint Rubio as being soft on the pro-life issue. Washington Examiner writer Daniel Allott called Rubio’s New Hampshire defense of the right to life even in exceptional cases “brilliant.”
Shortly after Rubio’s New Hampshire statements he received an endorsement from a well known pro-life leader, Abby Johnson. Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood clinic director turned pro-life champion, an opponent of the rape exception for abortion, and hails from Cruz’s home state of Texas.
Rubio’s debate challenge on abortion also led to Hillary Clinton receiving the first tough questions of the campaign about her own extreme position in favor of abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
Cruz may feel he needs to discredit Rubio among pro-life South Carolina voters. Pro-life leaders, however, want to praise both of them for their staunch support and would rather see them attack Clinton instead.
Matt Bowman is an attorney who practices pro-life and constitutional law in Washington, D.C.